Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 Is Off to the Races
June 20, 2011

Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 Is Off to the Races

Lightning McQueen takes on 10 global champions in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car.
Who’s the fastest car in the world?  
If you said Lightning McQueen—you’re not alone. As a four-time Piston Cup-winner, number 95 is a real contender. But can the American compete against international champs like Formula Racer Francesco Bernoulli—the favorite according to racing experts… (and Bernoulli himself)? And don’t forget Lewis Hamilton, the young, but incredibly talented yellow and black GTS car; Jeff Gorvette, the classic, all-American GTS master; and Carla Veloso, the tough Brazilian whose record speaks for itself—they have the guts to give the veterans a run for the title of world’s fastest car.

All images ©2011 Disney/Pixar.

Indeed, that title is what’s up for grabs in the first ever World Grand Prix—a race created by Sir Miles Axlerod, the infamous oil-baron-turned-environmentalist whose wonder-fuel Allinol will be the sole fuel allowed in the three-country race. Some say the race is merely an exhibition for Axlerod’s clean-burning fuel—but even if it is, the World Grand Prix has drawn the world’s top competitors and is already shaping up to be the race among races. What’s not to like? This race kicks off at night in Tokyo, Japan, cruises through breathtaking Porto Corsa, Italy, with a grand finale through the streets of London.  

For an in-depth look at the CG tools and technologies used to create the film’s cutting-edge computer graphics, see the June issue of Computer Graphics World. Meanwhile, Disney/Pixar gets you off to an early start with the following information, sure to get your engines humming.

•   Lightning McQueen, #95, USA. Four-time Piston Cup-winner and Hudson Hornet protégé says he’s not afraid of international competition.
•   Francesco Bernoulli, #1, Italy. The Formula Racer champion is by far the most popular race car in Europe—if not the world—and has little doubt he’ll take the World Grand Prix, too.  
•   Lewis Hamilton, #2, Great Britain. The young Grand Touring Sports champion is a winner inside and out with unrivaled technical skills and a natural speed ability—but his achievements on the track speak for themselves.
•   Max Schnell, #4, Germany.  The carbon fiber convert has won more races at Motorheimring than any other World Torque Champion League car in history.
•   Miguel Camino, #5, Spain. A veteran of the Running of the Bulldozers, he’s a fierce competitor on the Grand Touring Sport racing circuit, too.
•   Raoul ÇaRoule, #6, France. “World’s Greatest Rally Car”—the first car to ever win nine consecutive rallies will dominate on the dirt sections.
•   Shu Todoroki, #7, Japan. The Le Motor Prototype and champion of the Suzuka Circuit sports a fiery red Ka-Riu dragon that some say might intimidate the competition.
•   Carla Veloso, #8, Brazil. Le Motor Prototype racer with a powerful Brazilian spirit who’s seen success in Europe’s 24-hour endurance racing team.
•   Nigel Gearsley, #9, England. The Aston Martin DB9R racer who’s won nearly every start in the Grand Touring Sports circuit, including a string of podiums at Nurburgring and Le Mans.
•   Rip Clutchgoneski, #10, Republic of New Rearendia. The Cinderella story of the competition just might put his country on the map.
•   Jeff Gorvette, #24, USA.  A master of the Grand Touring Sports circuits, his numerous championships make him a respected competitor—and legitimate threat.

Orchestrating a race the size and scope of the World Grand Prix isn’t easy. Fortunately, there was a team at Pixar Animation Studios that was up for the task. Director John Lasseter drove the effort, having experienced the Spanish Grand Prix during the “Cars” publicity tour.  The experience opened his eyes to the power of the sport, particularly outside the U.S. Says “Cars” franchise guardian Jay Ward, “What people around the world love is formula style racing—open-wheeled, high horsepower, left-right-turn- Chicane-technical-course-type competition.”

Enter characters like Francesco Bernoulli—a star racecar with a worldwide following. He’s his own number one fan. “Francesco is a fun character,” says producer Denise Ream. “He has a lot of personality and a very high opinion of himself. The interaction between Lightning McQueen and Francesco is fun and entertaining throughout the movie.”

“This guy is so funny,” says Lasseter of Francesco. “He is so full of himself, he’s an open-wheel car and in the car world, an open-wheel car is like those guys who barely button their shirts. He talks about himself in the third person. He’s so much fun. Voicing Francesco Bernoulli is John Turturro and he hit it out of the park. It’s one of the most entertaining characters we’ve ever created.”

Adds Ream, “I really look forward to watching Francesco’s scenes—maybe it’s because I have John Turturro in my mind when I’m watching it, because he is really funny. But I think the character’s going to be incredibly popular.”

Ream had the opportunity to work with a real Formula 1 driver when Lewis Hamilton was tapped for the film.  Hamilton was hands on when it came to designing his “Cars 2” car. “He was very particular about what he wanted,” she says. “His emblem combines the Union Jack and the flag of Grenada—which is on his actual helmet. He wanted the car to be black with yellow pinstriping, and he picked the wheels. We had a great time sending pictures back and forth and sharing notes.”

The team behind “Cars 2” wanted to get the world’s newest event for racing enthusiasts—the World Grand Prix—just right… even if it meant traveling to some of the greatest race sites and races in the world, hanging out in the pits and riding in a racecar or two.  Lasseter and co-director Brad Lewis took a trip in September 2007. “We flew into Italy,” says Lewis. “We stayed in Modena and went to the Ferrari factory and spent a day or two there. Then John and I drove over to Milan and we went to Monza and saw the Italian Grand Prix.”
But that was just the beginning of what would be several adventures. “John insisted that we do extensive research,” says Ream. “We’ve done quite a few research trips, perhaps more than any other film. We went to the Jim Russell driving school in Sears Point—we took the animation department. That was a lot of fun. I also got to go to the Monaco Grand Prix, which was pretty spectacular.”

Several members of the Pixar team took part in Monaco’s Grand Prix practice and qualifying events. “Monaco is the most famous street grand prix Formula 1 racing track in the world,” says Lewis. “It was important for everybody to experience a high-end Formula 1 race.”
“On the way to Monaco, we stopped in Torino,” says production designer Harley Jessup. “We went to the Fiat track there and they brought out a great collection of cars that that we got to ride in with their driver—going 150 miles per hour. It was really fun.”

When it came time to decide just who would race in the World Grand Prix, filmmakers had a lot to consider. “In order for this to be a true international racing decathlon,” says Lewis, “we knew we wanted the best athletes from all the different racing disciplines. But we couldn’t have a cast of thousands and there are lots of different racing forms. So we decided to take a singular champion from the major racing forms.”

They subsequently created their version of the world’s fastest racecars for the film—NASCAR, Formula 1, Rally racing, Le Mans Prototypes, Grand Touring/GT1, GT2 and Deutsche Tourwagen Masters. For the designs of the racecars, the team considered speed, weight, power output and function to create the right look for each racecar.  

The result?  A race to top all races. “All the gloves are off,” says Ward. “If the best of the best in every type of racing around the world were invited to compete, what would happen?
“It’s a race of champions in all these different classes,” continues Ward. “We thought, ‘how do we level the playing field?’ And we came up with these courses that basically offered a little bit of benefit to each car. There’s an off-road section so the rally car could just fly down the course and the Formula racer would go really slow in the dirt, but then speed back up on the street. Lightning McQueen is great at both.”

But can number 95 top Francesco Bernoulli?  Bernoulli is, after all, the car considered by many to be the fastest car in the world—at least before the World Grand Prix.

And what about Lewis Hamilton, Jeff Gorvette, Carla Veloso and the rest?  In a field of 11 champions, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will finish first. And the filmmakers—well, they’re not talking. “We’ve all got our favorites,” says Lewis.

Directed by John Lasseter, Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 2” hits the track on June 24, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D in select theaters.

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